Visa Crunch

International students make a major chunk of the tech talent of the USA

International students owe a debt to the American economy, technology companies, and universities. Without international students, the United States would have far fewer graduate students and other highly educated individuals with backgrounds in science and engineering, as well as a much larger talent disparity between economic demand and the capacity to achieve it. The National Foundation for American Policy has released a new interpretation of educational data (NFAP). A significant red flag in the data: between 2015 and 2019, the number of full-time international students enrolled in graduate-level electrical engineering at U.S. universities decreased by 19.5 percent.

Between 2016 and 2019, the number of full-time international students enrolled in graduate-level computer and information sciences at US universities decreased by 9.5 percent. The downturn occurs before the impact of the United States’ policy barring many Chinese graduate students from entering the country, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on admissions.

International students make up 50 percent to 82 percent of full-time graduate students in key technical fields at U.S. universities. Surprisingly, the majority of graduate students are from India and China, two countries where US policies prevent or discourage people from studying in the United States. During the 2016-17 and 2018-19 academic years, the number of international students from India studying graduate-level computer science and engineering at American universities decreased by more than 25%. Many Chinese graduate students are being denied visas as a result of a Trump proclamation that was kept in place by the Biden administration, alarming US analysts, universities, and employers. Well before the pandemic, U.S. universities saw a drop in new international students enrolling. Covid-19 resulted in a drop in new enrollment.

Unless Congress attempts to address the long delays for employment-based green cards, which are fueled by the per-country limit and low annual quota, as well as the denial of 70% of H-1B registrations given the limited 85,000-annual H-1B limit for companies, very few Indian graduate students are likely to come to the United States. Congress and the executive branch will almost certainly need to change US policies in order to attract and retain top foreign-born talent.

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